A/N: A huuuge chapter this one. I know I'm taking my sweet time updating, but after April (ie when school's out!) I can focus on writing again so the updates will get more frequent. A little thing in this chapter might confuse you as it's not as it was in the show, but just remember that the fairies in this story have pointed ears, so they have to have the hair to hide them. I'm not saying anything else ;) Thank you for the support!
Eric sat alone in his office with the door slightly open, staring down at the computer screen with the phone in his ear. The man in the other end of the line was giving him an update on Russell Edginton's escape, but he was hardly listening. They haven't found him. Without supernatural help they probably never would. The only upside to it was that they wouldn't have to continue the search for long. In a few days' time, Edgington would recuperate and find his own way back to their doorstep.
"Ah, there's hardly any clues left to point us to the right direction," the man croaked in his ear.
Reports lay untouched on his desk. The countless emails crowding his inbox became one jumbled mess, as he stared at the screen. This is where he'd been for three days now, since he left Bon Temps. Unable to find the man he was looking for, and unable to go to the woman who dominated his thoughts.
Both had gone missing.
Eric's eyes flicked to the pile of papers. He snatched a random report in his hand, reading through it with speed, his eyes darting from line to line as he listened to the man blabber. New arrivals, receipts, claims and registerations. He filed the report following a methodical routine and moved on to the next one. He had already decided to go search the parking lot area by himself later tonight, like he'd done every single night after he learnt Russell was gone. Searching for him was becoming more and more desperate, but it gave him something to do. This was how he'd worked for these three days, systematically moving from a distraction to another until somewhere from the back of his mind she pushed her way back in. And thoughts of her made him useless.
It had been three days since he'd left her in Sookie's, and three days since anyone had heard from her or the fae. The following morning after their fight, Sookie had woken up alone to a simple note sitting next to her on the bed. Be safe. All of her things were still there. No missing clothing. Her car was parked out front, and the fridge was still packed full with blood. Everything had been left untouched as if she had only stepped out for a few minutes to get some air. Sookie wasn't answering calls anymore. After the shock of finding her gone and calling him in frantic panic, she'd firmly taken her cousin's side and drew a wall around her family. Pam told him she was working as usual. The two male fairies had disappeared.
Eric hunched over in his worn leather swivel chair and drew his fingers over his eyes. His mate wanted to be left alone. He could try to respect that. He'd stopped checking up on her through their elusive bond, which told him she was alive, but somewhere very far away. Now the woman herself should get out of his head and respect his sanity. "Did you check the video footage available from businesses in the nearby area?" he asked the man.
"The security cameras filming the parking hall were all broken. We couldn't save the tapes. We've literally done everything we've could to -"
"ATM cameras, gas stations, traffic surveillance…" Eric listed.
"Ah… you mean public security systems."
Eric licked his gums and by using a slow, patient voice usually reserved for children and disagreeable mental patients he said, "Yes, that's exactly what I mean."
"Ah, not yet no. We'll, ah, get to it."
"Has there been any unexplained killings or attacks reported in the 30-mile perimeter around the time he disappeared?"
The man was silent.
"I'm assuming you haven't checked," Eric stated unimpressed.
"If I hear 'ah' one more time, I'm going to find a way to reach through this phone and make you regret you were ever born."
A nervous pause.
The man smacked his lips. "The- There's a man who was working the shift that night in the parking lot, but he doesn't remember a thing. It's like there's a huge hole in his memory, he says. Can we use him?"
Indeed they could. Inexplicable holes in human memory only meant one thing. The man was most likely glamoured, but the memory still wasn't lost. Eric knew whose help they needed to dig it out. Sookie had seen past the glamour in Ginger's sieve of a brain with no difficulty, when Longshadow had been stealing from him. Once again Eric needed the telepath's services even if she never wanted to deal with him again. She had no choice in the matter. Russell had hardly forgotten about her either. Her blood would be right back on Russell's menu after he'd destroyed the ones that buried him; Bill Compton and him.
"Get a hold of him," Eric said, clicked the phone shut and threw it on the table.
Eric leaned back into his chair, pressed his hands together and tucked them under his chin. Ironically, this was the night he'd been expecting for a while now. He'd even counted the days like an eager little kid. Fae portals were closing, which meant that Lina's oath to her kind had been kept. She was free to go on with her life now and start a new one with him. This night should've been the beginning of many great things. Eric had seen himself standing beside his mate watching the portal disappear. He would have comforted her. He would have kept her close and taken care of her until she was ready to move on just like they all did. Instead, he sat alone in his bleak gray office deliberating death.
In all rationality Eric should feel relieved that Lina wasn't here. Russell was coming to him. If he learned what Lina was to Eric, she would be in danger. For the first time in their long walk together he was thinking of releasing Pam and sending her away for safety. Eric had killed Russell's progeny and life companion. The old vampire would find a way to enjoy hurting his.
Eric had never feared death before. He'd mastered the skill of avoiding it, but never before had he had this much to lose. Death still wasn't necessary, but it was a possibility. Godric was gone. When he took his own life, he had forever destroyed his child's vision of immortality.
"You look tired even for a man who doesn't sleep," a voice said, waking Eric from the stupor.
On impulse, Eric got on his feet and saw a man dressed in white standing by the office door. He hadn't heard a sound. The man had snuck in like a ghost. How long he had been standing there was anybody's guess. Looking immensely smug at having surprised him, the man smiled a cryptic smile. His long silvery hair was pulled back in an old fashioned ponytail Eric recalled from the regency era and his weight rested on a long wooden cane.
The fairy godfather himself.
Niall stood there unmoving. The aura of powerful magic surrounding him reminded Eric of just how deadly the highest prince of all fairies could be.
"I see that I've caught you at a bad time. Of course I could have called, but I rather wanted to see my new son-in-law in person," Niall said. He looked around Eric's simple office a little amused and banged his cane on the metal shelf. Cases of TruBloods and bar supplies rattled in response. "A charming establishment."
Eric gave him a mock bow. The fairy prince himself probably lived in an ivory tower.
"Old age is making you brave, Brigant," Eric noted.
Niall shrugged, which made the large shoulder pads of his jacket buckle and fold, and he stepped into his office. "You've never worried me, Northman. You only displease me."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Instead of taking the chair right in front of his desk like Eric expected him to, Niall walked to the shabby leather couch. He lied down and made himself comfortable, lifted one leg over the other and took the wooden cane in his hands as if examining it. He looked relaxed as if this was only supposed to be a sentimental social call on a dear friend. Eric sat down behind his desk and waited for the fairy to speak. For a moment he considered asking the question that plagued him the most, but decided against it. He wouldn't give Niall the pleasure.
Niall's lips curved. "You're not going to ask me about her?"
The fairy turned his old but piercing eyes to him and Eric noticed the achingly familiar shade of steel fleck them. He shifted in his seat, but stayed silent.
"Just as well, I wouldn't know what to tell you. My dear Lina hasn't told me where she is and she doesn't have a warm sport in her heart for people who pry," Niall continued. "I'm aware that she has left you."
The words had their desired effect. They stung like silver.
"You don't know for how long she'll be gone and you don't know where she went. You can't be sure she's even ever coming back. I know the reason why. Lina doesn't talk, but her cousins do." Niall looked at him like he, too, had been expecting this day to come for a while now. And this day had turned out exactly like he'd wanted it.
"I would like to kill you myself if I didn't have more use for you alive," he added and gave Eric that genial smile of his like he was doing him a favor. Maybe the smile was supposed to radiate some self-deluded goodwill, but he might as well have bared his two rows of razor teeth.
"I'm glad," Eric said dryly.
"Do you miss her?"
"What do you think?"
"I don't know about your thoughts vampire. So, tell me, if you please," Niall said. "I need to know if you're still as invested in her as you not so long ago claimed to be."
Eric curled his upper lip. "If you're here to have a long long talk about my feelings for your granddaughter, you're going to be sadly disappointed."
Niall let out a laugh and swung his cane in the air happily. "Oh, I don't care about how you're feeling, vampire! First of all, I didn't think you had such things as feelings. For me you're only a corpse that lives off of other beings."
Eric snorted. "Charming."
"But what I would like to know is that would you still protect my granddaughter to your best ability?" Niall asked.
"I don't usually do things by halves, Brigant."
Niall nodded. "Even if she wasn't in your life anymore?"
Eric grimaced. These insinuations were starting to feel like insults. "Why are you here, fairy?"
"Because of two things, Mr. Northman. Two problematic things."
Niall closed his eyes and sighed as if it was completely safe to let his guard down in the presence of a vampire. Eric's gaze involuntarily moved to the column of his throat. Niall's scent was concealed, but the memory of the fairy blood never faded.
"I find myself troubled," Niall whispered, breaking the quiet. "Is the room secure?"
Eric straightened his back. Something close to alarm crept up his spine. This wasn't just a social call, and Niall wasn't here only to mock him. There was something else the fairy was hiding and Eric didn't like the possibilities. When a centuries old creature with the ability to control worlds and elements told you he found himself troubled, it was usually a good time to start waiting for apocalypse. The fact that Niall came to him of all people was a warning in itself.
The fairy took his time. He seemed to be mulling his words over, as if weighing the benefit to mankind against the terribly taxing effort of speaking.
"As you know, I've promised my people that I would shut the Portals tonight and finally put an end to our time in this world before humans became a threat. We're not like you vampires; we treasure our secrecy. Exposure to humans would drive us to extinction. But now, I've found that something unexpected has happened," he said. "As you might know, it's in my power to safeguard the borders between this world, Faery and the other less agreeable dimensions that exist in between the two. I can sense the comings and goings between the worlds and I will know if peace is disrupted in the realms that we usually keep locked. We call one of these locked realms the Dark Realm. I'm assuming Lina hasn't told you about it before?"
Eric folded his arms. "I'm pretty sure I could spend a lifetime with your granddaughter and still be on the need to know basis when it comes to the fae and your ways. What is the Dark Realm and what have you stuffed in it?"
"It's a prison," Niall simply announced. "I've only ever been in the Dark Realm once with no intention of ever returning. It's a dark twisted place that holds the most dangerous individuals we haven't had the power or the skill to destroy. No one simply steps in and out of there and definitely not with their sanity intact. The portal has stayed closed for over twenty years. Or that is, up until three nights ago," Niall's voice trailed away.
"Was something thrown in?" Eric asked.
The fairy shook his head. "On the contrary. Only few of my kind can open the portal and no one claims to have touched it. So my guess is that something, somehow, has escaped."
"To this world or yours?"
"This one, I'm afraid."
Between a murderous Russell Edgington AWOL and his deeply hurt, missing mate, Eric's time for dealing with a new disaster was a bit limited. He gave the fairy an indignant look, "Convenient for you to pack up your things tonight and leave your shit behind."
The bastard had the balls to smile. "Convenient indeed. This is something I want Lina to look up when I'm gone. It may be a false alarm, it may not be. But there's something else."
"More dirty laundry to pass on to your grandchildren?"
"No, this is a job for you. And only you, given that you accept it. My granddaughter needs to be kept as far away as possible from this. The less she knows about it, the better. Do you understand?" Niall asked him, opened his eyes and held his gaze.
"I'm not going to lie to her, if that's what you're asking," Eric said. He liked to think of himself as a fast learner.
"This job doesn't have the time to become a lie. It needs to be done and cleared up before the next sunrise. It involves a vampire that I've been looking for a couple of days and I think you might have the intel where he's gone. Time's running out on me. Either you take responsibility or I will postpone the closing of the Portals and do the job myself. I'm very much aware that I've been misjudging the vampire and this could've been avoided had I stayed more alert about his whereabouts, but now I need the problem gone," Niall growled with authority. "When the Portals close tonight, I want to know that I've left Lina here as well off as she possibly could be. Unharmed and unthreatened. I've made some hard choices before when it comes to her safety. I've had to agree to some very unpleasant tradeoffs that she would never accept. But I did it all to protect her, despite what she might think."
"Right about now your dear Lina would remind you that she's a full-grown vampire with telekinetic abilities. She's right on top of the food chain. In a few more centuries she'll be more powerful than any vampire I've had the pleasure of meeting. So, your concern for her is really touching," Eric said.
Niall raised an eyebrow. "You have no idea what it is like to hide a bloodthirsty newborn with our blood and with no ability to protect her yourself. You need every ally you can get. Even those that would someday become her enemies. I'm leaving today, vampire. I have no longer means to control those forces that are protecting her from becoming the very things that are after her. Do I have your word?" he growled.
"Like I said that would be the thing Lina would tell you." Eric smiled. "But if it was up to me, I'd hide your granddaughter in a room full of armor for the rest of her existence."
"So you do understand."
"To a point." Eric said. "What's the job?"
Niall sat up. "Find and kill a vampire now called Russell Edgington."
Lina collapsed into big, soft cashmere pillows with a dreamy smile on her lips.
She stretched her muscles like a cat. Her back arched, she ran her hands over her head and sighed in pure pleasure. Jazz music played and she heard the people around her singing and laughing at each other's jokes. Joy was an addictive emotion to be around with. Right now she craved it more than blood. Lina peered at the human figures through a light curtain which secluded her and her companions from the eyes of the curious in the corner of the jazz lounge. People were dancing and spilling their drinks on each other, and Lina thought happily that their joy was finally rubbing off on her.
A girl with a bleeding neck wound slumped down next to her on the large divan they were lying on and giggled. The girl rested her head close to hers and looked at the female vampire with impossibly large bambi eyes. She stole glances at her fangs like she wanted to touch them but couldn't find the courage to ask. So innocent. Lina had been drawn to her like a moth to a flame. She smiled at the girl. She brushed the curls away from the girl's neck and rose on top of her. With her body pressed close, she kissed her way down from the girl's rosy cheek to the bite wound on her neck and healed it. She had no need to leave scars on her.
The girl giggled some more and moved her eyes to the man sitting near them. He was leaning back in a lounge chair smoking a cuban and looking at the scene in front of him with a satisfied smile on his face. Thin tendrils of smoke snaked through his parted lips. The girl wanted to catch his eye, but the man's gaze was fixed on the female vampire now fixing the girl's hair and smoothing out the wrinkles on her dress. The two of them looked strange, the girl thought. They were without a doubt the two most beautiful people she'd ever seen, but dressed in the weirdest clothes. Both of them were wearing some kind of a matching costume. The man had a black scarf on his head that hid half his face. She could only see his mouth, the strong jaw and the tip of his perfect nose. Brown long hair dropped on his shoulders. He had on a white button down shirt that exposed a good amount of his chest, black trousers and leather boots. The girl thought he looked like a greek god dressed in a sexy but silly Zorro outfit. The man's eyes flicked to hers and he winked. With some hesitation the girl offered him her wrist, but he only shook his head and raised the glass of some amber liquid to her. Not a vampire then.
The female vampire was wearing the exact same outfit. Her shirt hung loosely against her slender figure and her leather boots rose to the middle of her thighs. She had the same big black scarf over her head and greyish blue eyes looked back at her through the eye holes. A female Zorro with a blond curly mane. Plain weird.
The female vampire leaned to her ear. "Remember to drink something fruity next, okay? The drink is on me." She helped the girl up from the divan and dragged her thumb below her lower lip, probably to fix her lipstick. "What's your name?"
"Shosanna," the girl answered.
"You look very beautiful, Shosanna. I had a lovely time." The girl watched as the woman lied back down on her side and smiled. She didn't say anything after that and she didn't motion her back down on the pillows with her. She only looked at her like she was expecting something. The girl bit her lip and looked at the man. The greek god lifted his hand and gave a little wave. She understood that she was being politely dismissed.
The girl got on her feet, said her quick goodbyes and walked through the curtain.
Frans took a swig at his whisky and turned to Lina. "Tell me how it feels like."
Lina rolled on her back and propped her hands behind her head. The girl's blood slowly mixed with hers and spread to her arms and legs like warm lead. Licking her lips, she breathed out, "What do you mean?"
She dipped her head back and glanced at Frans. Her cousin was twirling his drink with one hand and holding the cigar in the other. He sucked on the cigar, held the smoke in his mouth for what seemed an age, and let it slowly flow out in a misty swirl. He thought he was so cool.
"To drink from her," he explained. His eyes had a strange gleam in them.
Lina grinned. "Have you noticed how they always like to watch you while I'm drinking from them? It turns them on like no other. I bet they're secretly hoping it was your hands in their hair and your lips sweetly sucking them. If you didn't make their blood taste so good, I'd have a jealous fit."
Frans shrugged. "Or maybe they just like being watched as much as I like watching you." He waggled his eyebrows. "Maybe you should try it with a little less clothing next time. It could taste even better."
"You're such a dude," she laughed.
They fell silent. Frans was puffing his smoke and staring at her with that weird much-in-thought look on his face. It was like the man had something on his mind but couldn't quite put it in words. For moments like this Lina would very much like to trade her only-useful-when-dying telekinesis for Sookie's sneaky telepathy.
"Enough with the ogling, weirdo. You're ruining my inner zen," Lina complained and threw a pillow at him. She missed. Feeding bliss was seriously messing with her aim.
Frans killed the cigar and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "What does blood taste like?"
Of all the things...
"Let's see," Lina said and rubbed her chin theatrically. She assumed the voice of an over enthusiastic cook show host. "Well, young man, blood comes in several delightful flavors. The taste is so varied that there's almost a different flavor to every human. I could just as easily ask you to describe what whisky tastes like. And you, my dear cousin who drinks like a fish, must know there are probably thousand different recipes, flavors and tastes to whisky. If you're looking for the sweetest blood possible known to any vampire prick your thumb and suck on it, but you can also try to look for your favorite by trying out different blood types, genders, virgins, elderly or even children, but I'd firmly advice you to stay away from children. Eating kids is somewhat frowned upon."
"Is it easy to feed?" Frans asked.
"Oh yes, when you learn not to kill them. It's instinctual. Because I can't glamour for shit, it helps if the girl is aroused. She can't tell the pain from her neck from the throbbing between her thighs. Human bodies are so easily deceived." Lina sighed and closed her eyes again.
"Is it... fun?"
"Is it ever. Feeding is easily the greatest pleasure in a vampire's life. Some say we only live for blood and sex, and they're not entirely wrong in that. The two go so well hand in hand. Feeding from someone you love, now that, my friend, is a pleasure that has no equal."
"Was it always like that? Even when you were just turned?"
What the hell was up with these questions? "Yes. It was only harder to control myself then... That's why Niall didn't let you guys near me."
Then Lina took a moment to think of a reason. Frans was looking at her sheepishly and then turned his face away. His cheeks were burning red. He was hiding something.
Abruptly Lina got up. With vampire speed she straddled him and pushed him flat against the lounge chair with a hand around his neck. Frans let out a very unmanly yelp. She lowered her face to his and narrowed her eyes.
"You're thinking about asking me to turn you," Lina growled through her teeth and kept him pinned. "Aren't you?!"
Frans gave her a surprised laugh. "Finally she gets it."
"You want to become like me? A vampire, Frans?" Lina hissed.
"Is it such a wonder?"
Yes, yes it is. "You hate vampires. You kill them just as greedily as a cat slays mice." He'd probably drag the bodies to their front door and show them off as well just like cats do if the vampire leftovers weren't a disgusting pile of goo.
"I'd kill anyone who wants to harm us. Vampires, humans, fairies, cats, mice, makes no fucking difference. Rest assured I haven't killed a single vampire who was innocent."
Lina stared him down. Frans blinked. His brown eyes shone from under the black mask. His lashes were long. For a fast passing second she saw the wild juvenile boy from the woods of Faery stare back at her anxiously. He wanted it. He really wanted to stay. Fucking hell. Lina let go of his neck, but made no other move to step away from him.
"How long have you been thinking about this?" she whispered. She didn't like this. Not at all.
"A couple of years," Frans swallowed now that the pressure was off his neck and smiled shyly.
He nodded. "As a fucking heart attack."
Turning a child. Keeping Frans here with her and teaching him how to survive. Becoming a maker to her best friend. Could she actually do it? She was already dragging around guilt so big from keeping the boys here away from their family. Now the boy wanted her to kill him and turn him into something that should never exist in the first place. Frans' mother would make it her business to come and stake her personally if she heard of this.
Lina shook her head. "You have no idea what you're asking."
"That's why you're here to tell me how insane it is," Frans laughed, but Lina could see he was nervous.
"It's the most whacked out thing you've ever said to me. And you say pretty stupid things all the time."
"Would you... consider it?"
"Time's running out Frans."
"We still have hours left before the Portals," he insisted.
Then they heard a loud noise.
A third man dressed in a Zorro costume burst out of the back room with a large bear of a man trailing behind him and cursing. Claude ran forward, squeezing through bar patrons with a manic grin on his face as the man after him shoved people aside like a gorilla. The man looked pissed off, to put it mildly. His whole face was red with anger with a vein pulsing dangerously on his forehead. Claude sprinted towards the bar counter, sprang in the air and hopped over the counter scaring the bejesus out the human bartender. The bear man bellowed in rage.
Lina and Frans stumbled on their feet, threw the curtain open and followed the circus on the other side with their mouths hanging open.
Claude ducked under the bartender's arm who was now trying to take a swing at him. He grabbed an expensive looking bottle of whisky from the top shelf and escaped the man's clutches still laughing his ass off.
"Has he gone completely fucking nuts?" Frans growled. Lina could only stare at the scene dumbfounded.
Claude spotted them through the crowd and started yelling like a halfwit, "Run comrades! Run run run! Run like the fucking wind!"
Two security guys left their posts at the front door and were now running towards Lina and Frans. This was the last time she'd ever wear clothes that somehow put her in the same crowd as the raging lunatic now running towards the front door holding the whisky bottle in the air like a trophy. The bear man chased him. The guards were stomping to them with a look on their face that promised a good ass kicking if they didn't get moving. Lina took hold of Frans shirt and pushed him in the opposite direction from the guards. Then they ran.
Patrons gave them a wide berth and stepped aside like they were the Red Sea and Frans was Moses in a hurry. Lina sprinted after him. They were almost out of the door when strong arms caught her around her waist and threw her back in the foyer. Frans turned around but Lina shouted him to get to Claude. The security guard threw her on the ground. She squealed helplessly in hopes that they were the kind of men that saw a little blonde woman and thought of a damsel in distress, not an easy target for boxing practice.
Nope, apparently she didn't look damsel material. Boxing practice it is.
The man raised his fist but before he had a chance to smash it against her nose, she took hold of him and threw him over her shoulder. The man crashed down on the ground ass first with a loud thump. Lina got up, put her leather boot over the man's throat and trashed the second security guard against the wall. A third one approached her. Lina threw her head back and growled at the next contestant while pressuring the first one's windpipe with her boot. The third guy thought it better to throw his hands in the air and shook his head as he retreaded. In a second Lina was out of the building.
She ran across the street and hopped in the front seat of their brand new Mustang convertible and shoved the keys in the ignition. Claude was banging his fist to her seat. "Drive woman, drive!" He was sitting in the backseat while Frans rode shotgun.
Lina slapped Claude across the head and kicked the gas pedal. The car purred and shot forward like it had been eagerly waiting for it. They left the city behind in a hurry. Claude stood up in the backseat screaming on top of his lungs like a masked version of Leonardo Di Caprio riding a Mustang instead of the Titanic, before his screaming turned into a full-bellied laughter. When the city lights were shining behind them, the three musketeers were all laughing.
This had been possibly the most memorable three days in her life. There had been too many good moments to list. First order of business when they left Bon Temps three days ago: retrieve Lina's katana. They went back to the clearing where Lina had fought against Neave and Lachlan and searched for the blade she'd forgotten there while she had to take care of Sookie. Now her old baby was safely wrapped in a blanket in the trunk of the Mustang. Second order of business on the list: the three musketeers should dress in suitable clothing for their mission. They'd walked into a costume shop and asked for musketeer costumes, but the shop only had the outfits for three pirates available. The cousins left out the eye patches and replaced them with the black masks. Then they were all set.
Claude was telling Frans how he'd gotten into that situation back in the bar. He'd been minding his own business when he'd accidentally hit on the wrong dude. The man hadn't taken it kindly. Claude figured it was best to escape the man, but then in the midrun he'd remembered he was thirsty. Hence the old whisky the two of them were now praising.
It was night and they were cruising down the route 66. Lina remembered how she'd joked to Sookie in the car dealership weeks ago that this would be the most romantic date she could think of. An old muscle car, stars and the desert. Instead of a man, she had her dearest cousins with her and instead of Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash was singing with his soft manly voice about how love was a burning thing, and how it made a fiery ring. It was an all right tradeoff.
Claude's hand appeared between Lina and Fran's seats and fumbled for the car radio.
"Step away from the radio, Claude," Lina warned him.
He leaned forward with his ass in the air and tried to negotiate. "We're not saying goodbyes at an end of an era to Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. Lina, I fucking refuse. Play Britney."
"This isn't a freaking democracy here. My car, my music." Lina laughed and steered the car to the side of the road.
"Sit your ass down." Frans maneuvered his brother back to his seat.
Lina parked in the middle of the desert somewhere in New Mexico. They climbed on the hood of the car, while Cash was still playing. Lina lied down on the hood and stared at the beautiful midnight sky. The boys took turns with the whisky.
Claude raised the bottle in the air. "I would like to say thanks to men of this world, the years we've spent horsing around here and lovely Lina who'll be playing the host again when we return!"
"You're coming back?" Lina said and raised an eyebrow.
"Sure, sure. I've hardly had enough," he said and then became thoughtful. "What are you going to do when we're gone?"
No idea. "Cry and wail," she jested.
"What about the vampire?" Frans asked.
Lina's smile faltered. Even thinking about the said vampire made her anxious like she suddenly didn't know to sit and breathe. It was frightening to notice how much she thought about Eric. The arrogant jackass had made her long for him. To hide her sadness, she tried to stick to joking, "I'll try not to kill him."
Frans grinned. "That's our girl."
"Just remember that sometimes you have to see the bad, to be able to love the good in him unconditionally," Claude stated and rubbed his chin like the Thinker.
Lina looked at him like he'd just grown two heads. Had he been reading those toilet papers of everyday wisdoms again? "When did you get so smart?"
He spun the bottle in the air. "I have my moments. It's better to keep you on your toes. When you expect nothing, you'll get more pleasant surprises," he explained. "Go to couples therapy."
Frans almost choked and banged the hood of the car with his fist. Lina burst out laughing and rolled on her back.
"What?! Some of the guys back in Paris do it. Appointment every Tuesday at six. The doc helps them to talk about their feels or something," Claude yelled. "Or are you guys too badass for therapy?"
Lina tried to imagine how that spectacle would go. It could be funny as hell. She could be actually tempted to try it just to see the look on Eric's face when she told him where they were going.
She tried not to laugh when she told them just what exactly she found so hilarious about it. "Hi, my name is Lina. I'm not a human. I'm not from here. Actually, I come from a whole other dimension coexisting with the one that we currently live in. Yes, exactly like aliens. I used to shoot light from my hands, but now I only move stuff around with my mind. I guess I have abandonment issues, trust issues and mommy issues. This is Eric, my man. He's rather quiet tonight because he told me he'd rather take a silver dildo up his ass before attending to any kind of therapy and I made him prove it. Eric is a thousand years old control freak. He'd like to strangle me and I'd like to beat him to death. We're forever destined for each other by blood, so we'd really really like to make this work... Yes, I can see how well that would go."
"I'd give it a shot," Claude still said.
Frans took the bottle from Claude and gave a speech of his own. "I would like to raise my glass, or bottle, to Lina. Everybody thought you wouldn't make it a decade, but here you are. Alive and kicking. Literally."
What? Who were these everybodies and would they like to come stand in front of her and say that again. "Got to love the trust people have for me," she muttered.
They quieted for a while. They all had a lot to think about this evening. Just like Claude had said, it was the end of an era.
Then Lina nudged Claude's shoulder. "Were you aware that your bother is thinking about becoming my progeny?"
Frans sat up and took a hold of her shirt. He pulled her face to face with him. His glare was quite powerful.
Claude blinked. "What? He's thinking of turning into a vampire?"
Frans looked like he wanted to shake her. She knew very well that it was a dick move from her. "Don't you be mad at me. Your decision concerns your brother too," Lina said and stabbed him on his chest with her finger.
Frans looked at Lina with a promise of murder and Claude looked at Frans like Lina had just accused his brother of devouring small children. "You want to become a living corpse that sucks on people's necks?"
"And I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," Lina murmured.
"Oh, I didn't mean you," Claude said and flicked his hand as if to brush it off.
Frans nodded. "Yeah, I do."
Claude shook his head in disbelief. For a few more seconds he only stared at the emptiness of the desert, but then he announced, "Well, count me in."
Lina sat up abruptly. "Excuse me but what the hell have you two been sipping?"
Frans turned the bottle in his hands. "Looks like 10 year old Laphroaig single malt whisky." Everybody's a smartass these days.
"Neither one of you is getting turned, so case closed and drink your poison," Lina huffed. "We have to get back to Bon Temps."
Claude went on, "Immortality, strength, to be able to glamour Ryan Gosling into thinking he's not straight. Just think of the possibilities."
Frans and Lina laughed. Lina went to the trunk of the car and took out her katana. When she came back, she looked at the two brothers with sadness in her eyes and a soft smile on her lips.
"What am I ever going to do without you two?"
She patted the hood of the Mustang in goodbye. The car was beautiful, but they didn't have the time to take it with them. She hopped back on the hood, while Frans took a hold of her ready for teleporting them away from the desert.
"Bore to death." Claude said and vanished from sight with a muted pop.
Sookie hugged Lina when they arrived back in Bon Temps, which seemed just like they'd left it. No new catasrophies. They were standing outside Merlotte's in the middle of a Halloween costume party. Sookie was wearing cute bunny ears and her apron. Sam Merlotte stood by their side and nodded in greeting.
Lina smiled to him. "Happy Halloween, Sam. Everything's looking nice." She looked around and saw jack o-lanterns decorating the yard and colorful party lights hanging above their heads. People were dressed in costumes and drinked their green poison colored drinks while barbequeing with their children. Very cozy.
"Holly and Arlene got a little excited," Sam said and smirked back.
Lina turned to Sookie and nodded to her bunny ears. "Where are your pajama pants? They'd go great with the ears." Bunny pajamas, still the silliest thing she'd seen someone wear in a while. This coming from a woman dressed like a mysterious pirate.
Sookie slapped her arm playfully. "Oh, shut up. Where have you been for these three days? You almost gave me a heart attack. Eric's been breathing down my neck."
At least he was checking up on her. She didn't know what that meant for her. Curiosity burned, but she fought to tone it down.
"Everywhere. Literally. Is everything alright?" she asked. The role of a guardian was a hard one to shake off when so many crazy things happened around this bunny lady.
"Yeah. It's been almost boring. I have to show you something when we get back though. Me and Lafayette did some digging in my bedroom and we found something strange under the floorboards. It's a kind of a parchment with alien language written on it."
"Looks like it. Jason and I went to see a linguist and even he didn't recognize the text," Sookie said.
Sam scratched his head. "Sookie, let's make a deal. I'm okay with werewolves, fairies, witches, vampires and if Jason is ever turning into a Hotshot werepather, I guess he's ok too. But don't bring Martians to my bar." Then he spoke to Lina. "You vamps especially have done a number on this town."
"We'll try to cut back on weirdness," Lina promised and curled her pinky finger.
"So you're staying?" Sookie asked.
That was the million dollar question. "I guess I am."
Sookie smiled broadly and towed Lina after her and introduced her around. Not surprisingly, Claude and Frans announced they were hungry and the three of them found themselves sitting at a table, where the brothers got themselves ribs and a pile of french fries, enough to warrant them a cardiac arrest. They ate happily while Lina watched the townsfolk slowly move towards the dance floor.
A woman with a sparkly pink and lilac costume served the boys beers. When Claude saw the pink wings on her back, he straightened in his seat and got that sly expression on his face. He asked the lady named Holly what her Halloween costume was about.
"I'm a fairy. Can't you tell?" Holly giggled and spun a little to show them her wings.
The three cousins raised their eyebrows.
Claude grinned like the cat that ate the canary. "A fairy... You don't say? And with a tiara on your head. Does that make you a fairy princess?"
Holly nodded, a bit confused. "I guess it does."
"A fairy princess! Frans, have a look at that. With pretty wings and all." Claude would start clapping any second. Then he turned to Lina. "Where's your wings, Lina? Are you hiding them somewhere?" He took hold of her shirt and peered under it. His hand was slapping her back. "No, not here."
Lina glanced down at the chair he was sitting on and pulled it out from under him. Claude crashed down on the ground with a shout.
A girl sitting opposite Lina giggled at them. She had that pure, unrestrained kind of a laugh that only children have. She was wearing a pink dress that made her look like the princess of the promised land of candy floss, complete with the corkscrew curls and a magic wand. Arlene kept glancing in her direction, so Lina guessed the girl was her daughter. The girl pointed at Claude who gathered himself up and returned to his seat with no less dignity.
"You'll pay for that, o' cousin of mine," he said and patted her on her head.
Suddenly Lina's instincts snapped to attention.
She felt the weight of someone's gaze, as if a sniper had sighted her through a rifle scope. Her head snapped up and she let her eyes sweep the party until they caught the person, who was still watching her with a level stare. He was a handsome, very masculine man with roughly cut features, who was sitting at a table not far from them talking to Jason. Or rather, Jason was talking to him, but he'd paused to take a look at their table. The man had a heavy jaw, some beard stump and a pimpled chin. If he smiled, he would have had laugh lines. But he didn't.
His hair was brown like Frans' and it reached his shoulders just they way Frans' did. He wore a pleasant, affable expression, but the way he was staring directly at her without blinking raised the hairs on the back of her neck. His eyes were dark. His brow was furrowed in thought.
Lina answered his stare. Right about now any other person would have realized what he was doing and politely looked away. When the man refused to get the subtle warning, Lina narrowed her eyes. That wasn't a stare of a man infatuated. It was more like he was perusing her or analyzing her, and it rubbed her the wrong way. She fought against the urge of baring her teeth, because that wouldn't suit the mood of the party and the man most likely was just a human who didn't now the protocol how to behave in public. The man kept looking directly in her eyes, but then lifted the Budweiser he was holding in his hand and took a swig. Finally he turned his gaze away, rested his strong looking arms on the table and said something to Jason.
There was something peculiar about the man, but as long as he didn't give her a reason to go investigating Lina'd leave him be. She turned her attention to the princess sitting at her table.
"You look pretty," Lina told her and gave her a shy smile.
"No, I don't," the girl rebuked. She spat it so fast that Lina was taken a little aback, already regretting she tried to make any contact to the little human. This was the reason she didn't deal with kids. No normal reactions. Fortunately, the scoundrels like her were already asleep when monsters like Lina woke up for the night.
"Why? I think you look very pretty," Lina tried again.
"My brothers get to be the Spiderman," the girl said and rolled her eyes.
"And you don't like the princess dress?"
The girl scrunched her nose and pushed a plate of cake away. "Mum always makes me wear a dress. Dresses are not cool. Not like Spiderman." She threw a wistful glace at the two little boys running zig zag around jack o' lanterns dressed in a blue and red jumpsuit.
That hit close at home.
"You know girl, I know exactly how you feel." Ronan and his stupid archery practices, Ronan and his stupid razor teeth. Lina and her horrid household lessons.
The girl shook her head. She pointed an accusing finger at Lina's scarf that was still hiding half her face. "No you don't. You got to be a Zorro."
"Believe it or not, I do, kiddo. I had to wear a dress one day too. Us princesses don't have it easy." Lina took off the black mask. She leaned over the table, put it over the girl's head and tied it in front of her eyes. Then she sat back down to check the results. "Now you look positively badass. Undercover princess versus the evil. Very superhero."
"Badass..." the girl repeated.
Lina's eyes widened. "Badbutt. I said badbutt."
Someone put a hand on her shoulder. The hand surprised her.
Lina flinched a little when she saw the table where the stranger and Jason had been sitting now empty, although she couldn't understand what in the unknown man made her so jumpy. Maybe Frans' trademark paranoia was finally catching on. Though, if she thought about the few past weeks, maybe she should try cutting herself some slack. Not the easiest weeks in her life by far. She could practically make being stressed her full-time job.
The man behind her was Jason. Either he'd snuck upon her on purpose or she'd need to get her ears checked, but in either case her reflexes needed some serious honing.
"Lina Lina Lina, what are you, a bandit?" Jason asked and smiled his million-watt smile designed to make women faint in his wake.
"Seems like it. I was a Zorro, but we decided the mask looked more badbutt on her." Lina put some emphasis on the word, hoping that the little mocking bird of a girl latched on to it.
"Princesses kick butt, Jason," the girl said and bared her tiny milk teeth at him in a snarl. Good girl.
"You mean to kick me too, Lisa? Cause I'll crumble like a stale cracker if a fireball like you came at me."
Lisa looked at him wide eyed. "Would you, really?"
"Absolutely. Do you think this bandit lady here will dance with me?" he asked Lisa gallantly.
"Sure she will," the girl swore and nodded her head for emphasis.
"Bandit, you heard the princess," Jason commanded Lina and offered her his arm. Lina happily took it.
She followed Jason to the dance floor. Some of the older townsfolk were already there hopping to the old country music that the Southerners seemed to adore. Jason proved himself a very gifted dancer, no doubt due to his bloodlines. Dancing was like breathing to fairies, even to the ones with only a spoonful of their blood in their system. His steps were a little unsure, but he didn't crush her toes once and his palms didn't sweat. That equalled grand skills in this age and time.
"So, where's your friend?" Lina asked Jason.
"Oh, Hoyt. Right about there." He nodded to the table where Jessica was sitting in the lap of a tall man and chatting away with a younger looking boy. "Jessica's sitting in his lap. Her you know already? Do you wanna go say hi?"
The man looked friendly, but he wasn't the one Lina had meant. "No, not that one. I mean the one you were talking to earlier? Brown hair, reaching just about his shoulders."
"Oh, you mean the new guy? I dunno, he left I guess. He came here to have a beer and to introduce himself. He's new in town."
"A human?" Lina asked.
Jason looked at her a bit funny and grinned. "Well, I guess that's not a weird thing to ask these days anymore, huh? All kinds of creatures crawling around here. Tinker bells with fangs for one," he winked. "He had a Budweiser, so yeah? You vampires don't drink anything else than blood right?"
Nope, vampires didn't. Lina herself could have a few glasses of something else and a little bit of food, but nothing tasted all that savory and that's why she didn't indulge herself too often never mind how much she missed wine. "Naw, blood keeps us pretty satisfied."
"He was a nice dude, a man of few words. He bought me a beer and asked some weird questions about the town's folk. Like how long have we Stackhouses lived here? How big is our family? What does Sookie like to do? How are you three related to us … Don't worry, I didn't rat on you. Your fairy secret is safe with me," he said and puffed his chest. "At first I thought he was interested in asking Sookie for a date and was looking for some tips, you know, but when he started asked me questions about our family roots I just thought he was one of those people."
Lina arched her eyebrow. "What people?"
"Hey I'm not socially awkward, I just really love cats – kind of people. Love making everybody so uncomfortable it's painful to be around them."
Lina smirked at that. The questions still bothered her even if Jason didn't tell the stranger anything. "But honestly Jason, did you get the feeling he was interrogating you?"
"You mean like an undercover cop?" Jason asked baffled.
"Not necessarily a cop. But did he seem threatening to you? Like he was asking those questions for a reason?"
Jason thought about it for a second. "No. He was just weird. Didn't even get my jokes."
"That happens to the best of us," Lina grinned, a little relieved. Paranoia was a beast. "Did you catch his name?"
"Yeah, his name is Ben," Jason said. "Ben Flynn."
Lina was looking at Frans with her hands on his cheeks. Her legs felt wobbly, but she forced herself to stay still and not show any panic. They were standing on the clearing not far from Sookie's home. Claude was already gone. The portal was shimmering in front of them and Niall stood beside it, trying not to listen to the two cousins give their goodbyes.
"Let's make a deal," Lina whispered.
Frans looked at her with conflicted eyes.
Lina tried to give him a reassuring nod, but the traitor tears dropped on her cheeks. "You go now, have a shot at life in Faery, spend time with your family. One day, if you still want to come back, I'll be here. I'll make you. You can become my Child if that is what you still want. But not like this. Not with a deadline over our heads. Not when we haven't had the time to think it through."
Frans dropped his head. He was silent for a while, but then drew her forward and ensnared her in a bear hug.
"You promise not to die on me?" he asked her.
Lina laughed and shamelessly used his shirt to clean her cheeks. "I'll promise to give living forever a shot. I'm feisty."
Frans let go of her. "To the honor of Ronan and Àron," he whispered and took a few steps back. Lina nodded. He smiled at her, turned and went through the portal.
Lina thought she'd die on the spot.
She took a long calming breath and saw her grandfather approaching her. For a while, she considered being the first and last one who'd ever have the guts to tell this man his clothes didn't belong to this era of time, but decided to let it go. The old man looked handsome even with the ridiculously large shoulder pads.
"This is goodbye, dear," Niall said. He hugged her to him. "You've done more for our family than anyone will ever know and I praise you for that. You're a strong woman. It's an honor to call you one of my own."
"I'm going to miss you," Lina exhaled and breathed in the familiar scent of his hair. "You'll let Frans return if he wants to? Could you do that for me?"
"Of course." Niall let go of her and bowed a little. "It's the least I can do."
The last seconds. Panic rose, but Lina swallowed it down.
"Don't forget me," she whispered.
"It's not possible, my girl," he promised. He looked at the forest for the last time, nodded to something, took a large breath of the fresh air and walked to the portal.
Then he was gone. They were all gone.
A bright light illuminated the clearing and a moment after the whole forest felt dead silent. All portals were closed. Only Lina stood in the darkness.
She walked to where the portal had just seconds ago hovered. She touched the still air as if trying to penetrate it. When she couldn't feel the stinging of fae magic, her hand dropped. She bit her cheek.
The stillness of everything was killing her. No Claude anymore to make her crazy and laugh to death. No Frans to keep her safe and sane.
She'd never felt more alone.
Lina dropped on her knees. She lied down on the grass in the middle of the clearing. She looked at the stars in front of her like only they knew how much she'd seen and gone through.
The stars are our only constant companions. Eric had said that to her. Eric's maker had told that to him. He couldn't have been more right.
She didn't bother lifting a finger, when she felt someone approach her. A tall figure stopped beside her, knelt and rested his body right next to her. She breathed in the soothing scent of winter and ocean air. He'd come to her.
They didn't speak for the longest while.
"Do you ever feel lonely?" Lina asked softly, but somehow she felt that the question had been loud enough to echo in the woods. From the corner of her eyes she saw his head turn to her.
"All the time," Eric answered.
Lina placed her arms under her head and let her eyes close. She guessed that at the end of the day you could either focus on what is tearing you apart or on what is holding you together. He did bad things. She did bad things. They'd fight through it all.